Silence is golden or is it?

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:49 AM ET

Perhaps only native New Yorkers Simon and Garfunkel can interpret Gary Bettman and Bob Goodenow's sounds of silence eminating from their Manhattan meeting late last night.

Expecting the worst in the form of a cancelled season, the National Hockey League and its players instead waited out 9 1/2 hours of talks, no comment from both sides and a resumption of discussions this morning.

Does it mean a glimmer of hope for a hockey season, or was it just an exercise in formal rejection of offers by both sides, allowing the league to pull the plug with a morning press conference conveniently overshadowed by Super Bowl weekend?

"I talked to the Players Association a little while ago and it was neither progressive nor regressive," an unnamed player told the Philadelphia Inquirer after speaking to a union executive earlier last night. "But the feeling was it can't be anything but positive if they are still involved, still talking in the same room."

The two days of talks also could end up being what one player agent has called "a big nothing burger with plenty of cheese." But for one more day at least, there is some optimism.

"I've been consistent on this all the way, as long as they're still talking, it's a positive," Maple Leafs general manager John Ferguson said.

Just what both sides could have been talking about so late, given their supposedly unwavering positions on a salary cap is intriguing. Ryan Smyth and his Edmonton Oilers' teammates spent an anxious day by the telephone trying to guess.

"Today was a day like any other for us," a frustrated Smyth said. "One way or another, you just want to know. We're sitting around trying to figure out what the next step is and what's the next step the league might be taking. It's up in the air, but I've kept my spirits up that there might be some light at the end of the tunnel. All of us in the room (at practice) today, we just want to play hockey."

Bettman and union executive Bob Goodenow were back to the table yesterday after the leaders sat out the previous five sessions during a two-week span. The meeting began around 1:30 p.m. yesterday and broke around 11 p.m. At 8:45, a league release said no further comment was forthcoming "in deference to the process", a stance echoed by the NHLPA two hours later.

Players turned down the NHL's latest offer on Wednesday, sticking to their vow that they will never accept a salary cap. The 4 1/2-month lockout is now 142 days old, has claimed 772 of 1,230 games, leaving just a 20 to 30-game regular season possible if there's a new collective bargaining agreement.


Videos

Photos